Our understanding of sustainability and research approach
The chair deals with the thematic range of sustainability management in and between the three sectors market, state and civil society. By market we mean profit-oriented companies and organisations financed by the market in general, as a state we mean public institutions and the nonprofit organisations form the civil society third sector. We understand sustainability as a holistic and long-term consideration of ecological, social and economic aspects, also beyond the organisational framework of an institution. We do not see Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a synonym, but as an instrument for achieving corporate sustainability.
In our research, we look at the above-mentioned sectors and their interactions from both an institutional and a functional perspective:
From an institutional point of view, we look at the various forms of cooperation that can exist between the three sectors, for example in the form of corporate community involvement/corporate volunteering or sustainability-related networks. In particular, we investigate the effects that such collaborations can have on the sustainability of an organization or system.
In the area of regulation, we focus on how actors from all three sectors can shape sustainable regulation, for example through new forms of regulation, networking, lobbying, or corporate political action. Typical examples of current regulatory areas are energy supply, aspects of food production, sustainable urban development and the quota of women in companies.
The functional focus can be summarised in three further research fields, which mainly concern the second sector, i.e. business enterprises. The focus is on the relationship between corporate sustainability strategies, sustainable value creation and accountability to stakeholders (employees, suppliers, customers, etc., but also state actors and non-profit organisations). Here we place particular emphasis on how these areas should be combined in order to achieve sustainability as holistically as possible, for example through sustainability-related impact measurements, integrated product lifecycle management, stakeholder management or integrated reporting.
As a chair of economics at a technical university, we attach particular importance to intradisciplinary research, for example through cooperation with scientific colleagues from Germany and abroad. A problem-oriented approach is essential, especially in sustainability research, due to the topicality of the topic. We follow a theoretically founded research approach. In order to achieve the ideal of mixed-method research, we combine quantitative with qualitative methods.
Research strategy (2018)
In our research – just like in our teaching – we focus on the topic of sustainability management. In our understanding of sustainability management, we thereby follow the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a “plan of action for people, planet and prosperity” by the United Nations that comprises 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Guided by this Vision 2030, we see that our primary mission as a department for business administration is to help develop solutions for SDG no. 12, Sustainable Consumption and Production. As a topic that addresses the whole society, research on sustainability and on sustainable consumption and production cannot be limited to individual actors. Consequently, at the organizational level, we address sustainability management of actors in the three sectors market (e.g. forprofit firms), civil society (e.g. nonprofit organizations), and the public sector (e.g. public administration). Because of the topic’s complexity, we usually do not only focus on the actors themselves, but also on interorganizational and intersectoral Networks (SDG no. 17: Partnerships for the Goals) and their socio-cultural, ecological, and political-economic environment. In this entire system, a key function is acquired by individuals with their abilities, skills, and characteristics, who influence not only organizations and networks significantly, but them also the socio-cultural, ecological, and political-economic environment.
Against the backdrop of this multilevel framework, our research strategy curently focuses on the following areas of research:
- the role of universities in sustainability networks
- Success factors of sustainability networks
- pro-environmental behavior at the workplace
- sustainability and digital transformation
- innovations for circular economy
- implementing the sustainable development goals in organizational accountability
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